Reunited royalists aim for CNRP

Ranariddh had only recently formed a new party.
Ranariddh had only recently formed a new party. Hong Menea

Reunited royalists aim for CNRP

Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s return followed by attack on opposition

Funcinpec yesterday lauded the shock return of` its former leader as an opportunity for greater political unity, before quickly turning a press conference called to announce the move into a frontal assault on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Funcinpec secretary-general Nhek Bun Chhay told reporters yesterday afternoon that Prince Norodom Ranariddh’s return to the party he led to victory in Cambodia’s landmark 1993 election was a “positive sign”.

Ranariddh’s return, announced on Thursday, comes less than a year after he established the rival Community of Royalist People’s Party (CRPP) and barely a month after the fledgling party announced the defection of several Funcinpec members to their camp.

“Our two wishes are that we want royalists to be united as one and that we don’t want them to attack eacher other,” Bun Chhay said.

With the royalist parties “united”, Bun Chhay quickly turned his attention to the opposition CNRP. “Funcinpec has been accused of being a puppet and so on, but the problem is not us, and those who accused us are the CNRP. Now, they [the CNRP] are going to be like Funcinpec,” he said.

He added that the CNRP has little power in the National Assembly, and claimed Funcinpec’s cooperation with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party “is much better than the CNRP’s”.

“In 1998 Funcinpec had 43 seats, and in 2008 we had two seats … We got National Assembly president and four commissions. But now the CNRP has 55 seats … but their negotiation has only got them deputy president of the National Assembly,” he said.

Funcinpec won no seats in the 2013 national polls.

Bun Chhay said his party had maintained power during its time in parliament because the CPP had required Funcinpec’s support to achieve the two-thirds of seats needed to pass a law.

“But now, even though 55 seats are quite a lot, due to the rule of ‘50 per cent plus one’, the CPP does not need even a single vote from the CNRP,” he said. “The CNRP has no weight at all.”

Bun Chhay went on to boast that “some officials from the CNRP may be coming back to Funcinpec”.

But opposition members were quick to dismiss the remarks.

CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said her party has brought about tangible change since taking its seats in the assembly last year.

“The CNRP has power in parliament,” she said, citing National Election Committee reforms and the party’s leadership of five of the assembly’s 10 commissions as key achievements.

When asked about Ranarriddh’s return to Funcinpec, Sochua said: “The people gave him the opportunity, gave him the chance, and he did not deliver … The people have chosen, they have said what they want – what they want is the CNRP.”

Acting CNRP president Pol Ham said Ranariddh’s return would have “no impact” on the party. “It is not of interest [to us] at all,” he added.

Despite boasting of the party’s cooperation with the CPP and slamming the opposition, Bun Chhay yesterday dismissed claims that Prime Minister Hun Sen was behind Ranariddh’s move.

But, he said, the premier had welcomed the news.

On Thursday, “Hun Sen called me by phone to congratulate me … When he knew, the prime minister was happy.” Additional reporting by Alice Cuddy.

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